Early Pregnancy Symptoms You May Experience

Early Pregnancy Symptoms: First Signs of Pregnancy

February 20, 2019

Early Pregnancy Symptoms: First Signs of Pregnancy

Early Pregnancy Symptoms: First Signs of Pregnancy
Photo by @msvaniarios
Early Pregnancy Symptoms: First Signs of Pregnancy

The two-week wait. Yep, there really is a term for that time between when you conceive (or potentially conceive) and when you can find out whether or not you’re actually pregnant by taking a pregnancy test (or getting your period).

During those two weeks, you’re wondering if every twinge and sensation could possibly mean you’re pregnant. And really, they could. Here are the most common first signs of pregnancy.

How Early Can You Get Pregnancy Symptoms?

It’s not instant. In fact, it can take a while before early pregnancy symptoms appear, and every woman is different. Some women swear they felt “different” about a week after conception but others won’t feel early pregnancy symptoms for a couple months.

This (typical but not hard-and-fast) timeline of events helps paint a clearer picture of when first signs of pregnancy tend to make their debut:

  • Week 1: The period. If you conceive this month, your pregnancy will be counted from the day of Aunt Flo’s arrival. (That’s right—in the medical community a pregnancy is counted from before a woman was actually pregnant. Here’s a primer for how to count your pregnancy weeks.)
  • Week 2: Conception. At the end of the week (around day 14) is when sperm meets egg but there’s a lot that needs to happen still.
  • Week 3: The journey. The little fertilized blastocyst (technical term for fertilized egg) has to journey from the fallopian tube to the uterus to make its home there, so while it’s super busy this week, you may not feel any different.
  • Week 4: Implantation. The blastocyst/embryo attaches itself to the lining of the uterus—this is called implantation, and it can cause some super early pregnancy symptoms, including light cramping and bleeding, in some women. Others don’t notice a thing.
  • 5 weeks pregnant: Congrats, you’re pregnant! This is when you miss your period. Now there’s probably enough of the pregnancy hormone hCG in the system to be picked up by a home pregnancy test to get that big fat plus sign. As hCG levels rise, it can cause early pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue.
  • 6 weeks pregnant to 8 weeks pregnant: Early pregnancy symptoms begin for most. At this point, hCG levels are doubling about every 72 hours, so most pregnant women are probably starting to feel something different. In one study, about half of pregnant women started feeling early pregnancy symptoms by the beginning of 6 weeks pregnant, and 89% of them felt them by the end of 8 weeks pregnant.
  • 8 weeks pregnant to 11 weeks pregnant: Early pregnancy symptom overload! This is when hCG levels are highest, so you may feel pretty miserable. Get through these weeks, and you’ll probably be done with the worst of early pregnancy symptoms.

Like with everything in pregnancy, every woman is different, so the above timeline might not be exact for you, especially if you don’t have a 28-day menstrual cycle. You may not feel any early pregnancy symptoms at all.

Early Pregnancy Symptoms

OK, so now back to the real reason you’re here: what are the most common early pregnancy symptoms? And can you know before a pregnancy test? Well, sometimes but you can’t be totally sure! If you’re feeling any of these, it could be a first sign of pregnancy.

Nausea

According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 25 percent of women say nausea was their first sign of pregnancy. Also known as morning sickness, this symptom can be feel like just a churning tummy or it can be full-on vomiting.

Breast changes

You may notice your breasts change pretty darn early—as little as a week or two after you conceive. They may get sore or swollen (hands off!), and some women’s nipples get darker as a first sign of pregnancy too. Blame the hormones progesterone and estrogen, as well as increased blood flow, for these early pregnancy symptoms.

Fatigue

It’s normal to feel a little like you’ve been hit by a truck during early pregnancy, thanks to increased blood flow and your body getting used to all those hormones. Out-of-character tiredness is many women’s first clue they’re expecting.

Spotting

As we mentioned above, implantation can cause a bit of spotting (dubbed “implantation bleeding”) about six to 12 days after conception, which makes it a super early pregnancy symptom. It could get confused with your period, but implantation bleeding has some distinct differences: it’s more like spotting or light bleeding—implantation bleeding wouldn’t be enough to fill a pad or a tampon. And it’s usually light pink or brownish, not bright or dark red. Plus, this early sign of pregnancy usually happens sooner than a period typically would.

Cramps

Implantation can also cause a bit of cramping because the uterus is stretching, and the cramps may come along with spotting or not. You may or may not notice this early pregnancy symptom, since it tends not to be as strong or as severe as period cramps.

Mood swings

Between the fatigue and all the other early pregnancy symptoms you may be experiencing, you may catch yourself sobbing uncontrollably or getting irrationally angry and realize it’s an early sign of pregnancy.

Headaches

The increase in blood volume can create headaches in those first few weeks. Drink plenty of water, and know that acetaminophen (Tylenol) is usually considered safe to take during pregnancy.

Backaches

Your cramping may not feel exactly like cramps but more like lower back pain. Like headaches, Tylenol can help.

Peeing often

Pretty early on, a pregnant woman’s kidneys start working overtime, and you might find yourself heading to the bathroom more often than normal. Totally an unexpected early pregnancy symptom. Maybe you thought this would come later, with a bigger belly—it will, but now too.

Cravings

Maybe your body is simply craving more carbs to keep growing that baby or to give you more energy because you’re so damn tired. Either way, you may have a sudden hankering for some…um…unique or different foods as an early pregnancy symptom.

Food aversions

On the other hand, you might not be able to handle the sight or smell of certain foods, even former faves. Food aversions go hand-in-hand with morning sickness—when you’re nauseated, strong smells can set you over the edge. Best to just avoid the foods that are turning you off.

Bloating

Increased progesterone can slow down your digestion and make it harder than usual to zip your jeans.

Constipation

Talk about slowed digestion—you might be totally stopped up! This early sign of pregnancy is not fun, but it may clue you into the fact that you’re expecting. Staying hydrated and eating fiber-rich, like dried fruit, can help.

The confusing part is that some of these early pregnancy symptoms can also be signs of illness or part of PMS, so listen to your body, and try to be patient. (Easier said than done, we know.) Some pregnancy tests are pretty accurate starting the day after your first missed period, so wait. Take a pregnancy test and go from there.

Early Pregnancy Symptoms with Twins

Wondering if there could be twins in there? Usually women who are pregnant with twins (or more) find out at the first ultrasound appointment—often around 8 weeks pregnant—when the doctor sees two sacs. Before that, though, there are some early pregnancy symptoms that could signal it’s multiples.

  • Elevated hCG level: A pregnancy blood test is more sensitive than a urine test. It doesn’t just tell you “pregnant” or “not,” it gives your doctor an actual hCG level. And if yours is higher than usual for a woman as far along as you are, it could be an early sign of pregnancy with twins.
  • Early ‘showing’ or weight gain: Twin mamas sometimes will show earlier or have a bigger bump than moms with just one bun in the oven will.
  • Stronger early pregnancy symptoms: A higher hCG level can sometimes mean more severe morning sickness or fatigue. In fact, hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)—a pregnancy condition characterized by debilitating nausea and vomiting—is more common in twin and multiples pregnancies.

There’s no way to know for sure your early pregnancy symptoms mean you’re carrying twins or other multiples.

Weird Early Pregnancy Symptoms

We polled moms, and here are their weirdest first signs of pregnancy. All of these early pregnancy symptoms started before they even took a pregnancy test!

  • Taste of metal: “I had a metallic taste in my mouth, like I was chewing on a tin foil gum wrapper!” —Shannon
  • Extra sappy: “I cried hysterically watching a Superman trailer where he saves a school bus of kids.” —Erica
  • ‘Dog nose’: “I thought wine smelled like yeast and basically had a dog nose for anything and everything. That was not a fun early pregnancy symptom on the subways in August and September!” —Amy
  • New preferences: “All the food I ate needed hot sauce because it wasn’t spicy enough, and all my drinks needed ice—including milk.” —Jennifer
  • Fluttery feeling: “I had butterflies in my tummy! I knew I was pregnant before the test did!” —Jené
  • Dry skin: “My first sign of pregnancy was that my skin was super itchy. Even though I live in Vegas, the only time I lotion my full body daily is when I’m pregnant. When I had to ask my husband to lotion my back, I suspected I was pregnant the second time.” —Carrie
  • No java: “Insomnia and an aversion to coffee were my first signs of pregnancy.” -Melissa
  • Super-sensitive sense of smell: “Within days of getting pregnant with my first baby, my sense of smell was really intensified, and for some reason, the smell of bananas drove me nuts. It was so overpowering. One banana in the kitchen would takeover the whole house to me. The second time around, literally 24 hours after I got pregnant, I got home from work, walked in the door and could smell the banana in the kitchen. Instantly I knew!” —Michaelann
  • Irregular heartbeat: “I had heart palpitations right away with all of my pregnancies.” —Mandy

These are just some of the early pregnancy symptoms women experience—but remember, each pregnancy is unique, and you may not experience any first signs of pregnancy—or you may end up with all of them!

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